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July 25, 2017 – Mt Bachelor

The end of July is a time I look forward to every year because of an annual three day work conference in Bend.  This year, instead of bringing my mountain bike, I decided to bring the snowboard.  I’d scored a bit of beta from Dan, who skied the mountain a couple of days earlier, so my only concern was how the weather would shape up.  My plan was to hike and ride the mountain on my way over to the conference on Tuesday afternoon, and I left work at noon under sunny skies.  The forecast was calling for thunderstorms in the mountains, and there were a few clouds rolling in and out when I pulled into the parking lot.  After waffling about whether or not I should hike the hill, I decided to give it a go, and drove over to the Sunrise lot since there were so many people mountain biking at Pine Mountain.

Bachelor from Avalanche Run

It was warm as I started up the road, around 85 degrees.  As I worked my way up the mountain, I started seeing hundreds of butterflies flying around.  I’d noticed quite a few on the way over too, and it appeared that the California Tortoiseshell butterflies were in the midst of a super migration.

California Tortoiseshells

I worked my way up the road and popped out at the base of the summit lift, then headed west towards Pine.  The views towards the Three Sisters and Broken Top loomed large to the north, and I could see a few clouds building.

Looking out over the Sisters & Broken Top

I kept going towards Pine and turned off the road and onto snow at the bottom of the Rope Tow patch, which was only about 100 feet from the road.  Once on snow, I was able to make good time, and found myself setting a pretty quick pace because I wanted to both try and beat the weather as well as get to my room to check in.  Soon I arrived at the base of the Cirque Bowl, and it was filled in nicely.  If you look closely, you can see Dan’s tracks from a couple days earlier coming off the top…

The Cirque Bowl

I continued climbing, and at the base of the cornice headed up to the ridge.  At this point, there was a big nasty cloud building behind the mountain, and the sky to the south and east was getting really black.  I decided to press on against my better judgment, but figured I could get the hell out of there pretty quickly on the board if I needed.  I practically ran up the last bit to the summit, and pulled out both by my tripod and a beer.  Time from the car was under 1 hour and 40 minutes, which included a change over from shoes to snowboard boots.

Summit selfie

Summit beer shot right before I strapped in

As I was taking a few pictures and admiring the views to the north, I heard a big rumble right behind me, and decided it was time to get the hell off the mountain.  I put the beer back in the pack, strapped in, and dropped.  The turns were really nice, and I shredded the entire bowl top to bottom, all the way to the road.  At the bottom, I felt comfortable enough to drink my beer, and went about getting my boar on the pack and changing back to trail shoes.  Looking back up the hill, I snapped the below photo looking at the bottom of the Rope Tow patch which shows the change in the weather…

Rope Tow Patch

One back in my trail shoes, I jogged down the road, something I usually don’t do, but I was looking forward to checking into my room, as well as getting some dinner and a cold micro brew in Bend.  I made it back down to the car around 5:15 pm, for a car to car time of 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Sunrise Parking Lot View

On the way in to Bend, I stopped along the Cascade Lakes Highway to snap a few photos of the mountain, including the shot below….

Bachelor from Cascade Lakes Hwy

I checked into my room around 5:45, and an hour or so later was enjoying a cold beer and good grub at Worthy Brewing with a few friends.  The following days at the conference were fun, and I managed to get out one evening after the sessions were complete with Brian for some fishing and photo shooting out at Tumalo Falls.  Brian did the fishing, and I did the shooting.  A few shots of the fall are below…

Tumalo Falls

Summer color at Tumalo Falls

I have to admit, summer in Bend is pretty nice.  Whether it’s snowboarding on the hill, flyfishing on the river, mountain biking on the trails, or drinking beer in one of the many brew pubs, it’s a pretty good life.  With that said, here’s a parting shot from my trip to Bachelor…

Sparks Lake & South Sister

 

July 9-11, 2017 – Mt Rainier, Fryingpan Glacier Environs

Sitting at my office in early June, I found myself browsing through some of my old trip reports, and realized it had been 8 years since I last visited Mt Rainier.  On a whim, I decided this year would be a good year for a return visit, and started looking into getting a permit.  It took a bit of doing, but I was able to secure a permit, as well as entice Joe, John and Dan to tag along for a trip to the Fryingpan Glacier.

We left the valley early on Sunday morning around 6:00 am.  John and Dan met me at my house, and we picked up Joe at the cop shop in Albany at 6:30.  Somehow we managed to get all of our gear into my Outback, and we headed north on the Interstate.  Four and a half hours later, we arrived at the White River Ranger Station to pick up our permit.  After some haggling with the ranger staffing the station about proper etiquette with respect to how to store our food in bear proof containers and getting the runaround regarding camping in the backcountry zones, we got our permit and headed up to the trailhead.

Dan & Joe at the trailhead

After unloading the gear and eating a quick lunch, we shouldered really heavy packs and started up the trail around noon.  Hiking up Fryingpan Creek in the shade of the forest was just a beautiful as I remember it being 8 years earlier, and soon the forest gave way to the alpine and views of Little Tahoma and the Fryingpan Glacier…

Dan on the hike in

Once we got to the point in the trail where the switchbacks began, the snow patches started.  After briefly losing the trail, we regained it quickly and followed it to Summerland, which always affords awesome views of the mountain…

Dan at Summerland

Although we had a permit to camp in a backcountry zone for Sunday night, we dropped our stuff at Summerland, hoping to snag a site there, since we would be there Monday night.  We’d heard that many of the folks who had reserved sites at Summerland recently weren’t showing up due to all the snow on the Wonderland trail at Panhandle Gap.  So, with luck, we could get a site and not have to move camp the following day.  With our gear stashed and out of the way, we headed out for a late afternoon tour.  Our objective was Goat Cirque, and we were able to skin from just outside of the campsites.  30 minutes out, the scenery looked pretty dang nice….

Goat Cirque

We climbed up a steep ramp to the lookers left in the bowl, eventually making it up to the ridge that separated the bowl from the Ohanapecosh drainage.  The views to the south and east didn’t suck at all…

Looking over the Ohanapecosh

The lighting was really nice, and we lounged around the summit ridge for a few minutes before heading down, taking in the views.  The turns off the top were exceptional corn, and it was a treat to ski the bowl after a long day of driving and hiking.

Joe skiing the upper section

We worked our way down to the bottom, enjoying the soft snow, and made the long traverse back towards Summerland.  As we approached, we saw a helicopter preparing to land.  Watching it, it took off, flew up the mountain a ways, and then came back.  As we got nearer, it was apparent it was some sort of rescue operation related to climbers elsewhere on the mountain.  We heard later that a climber had fallen on the Fryingpan and lacerated both his wrists and broke an ankle.

Dan and the heli at Summerland

Back at Summerland, we set about making dinner and enjoying the evening.  By 9:00 pm it was apparent that not all five of the sites would be filled, so we snagged a campsite and made ourselves cozy for the evening.  The next morning we headed out after breakfast, with the intention of skiing up to Whitman Crest and possibly Little Tahoma.  The weather was sunny at camp, but clouds started to roll in as we headed up to Goat Cirque.

John climbing below the knife ridge

Joe hiking above Ohanapecosh Park

We worked our way above Goat Cirque, and into a good spot for some lunch below the Fryingpan Glacier.  Dan and John decided to climb the small ridge above our position and get in a hundred feet of fun turns on the way down to our lunch spot…

Dan making tracks

The clouds were rolling in and out all morning, but generally stayed to the south of us.  As we continued to climb up, the views got better and better, so I snapped a few photos along the way…

Hiking below Fryingpan

Skinning above Goat Cirque

Eventually, we worked our way up onto the Fryingpan Glacier and up to Whitman Crest.  The Fryingpan was in really good shape, and we were able to skirt one crevasse on the headwall to get to a high point somewhere around 9300 feet.  The views were somewhat muted by the clouds, but they added to the overall beauty of the day…

At Whitman Crest

Looking south to Mt Adams

Although I was in favor of continuing on to Little Tahoma, which required dropping down over some rocks to the Whitman Glacier, I was outvoted so we decided to shred the Fryingpan instead — not a bad consolation prize.  I dropped in while Dan snapped a few photos, and the snow was perfect.

Dropping in on the Fryingpan

The skiers feeling small on the Fryingpan

We continued down, working our way back in the general direction of our uptrack.  There was a steep headwall that we wanted to ski adjacent to our uptrack, so we made it a point to do just that.  The sun was perfect as we dropped in, and I snapped pictures of Dan as he skied by…

Kissing the sky on Rainier

Skiing above the Ohanapecosh drainage

The snow on the headwall was so good that we decided to hike back up and ski it again.  This time, Dan took photos of me as I ripped the steep, perfect snow.

Matt enjoying primo corn

In fact the snow was so good, that we all elected to climb back up and ski it a third time.  This time, at the top of the headwall, John and I decided to go all the way back up to Whitman Crest to ski one more line that had eyed earlier in the day.  By now it was around 4:00 pm, so by the time we made it back to Whitman it was nearing 5:30 and the lighting was getting pretty nice…

John climbing back to Whitman Crest

Looking out to Little Tahoma

The skiing down from Whitman was equally as good as it was several hours earlier, and we ripped the corn back down the glacier and to the headwall for a great third ski of the steep slope.  Our line this time was a bit to the south from our previous line, and we found snow that was a little bit better and slightly steeper…

2nd run off Whitman Crest

The weather was the best we’d had all day, so naturally I had my camera out trying to snap a few pictures of John.  That is easier said than done, as John rarely stops when he starts skiing….he just goes down the hill!

John harvesting some Rainier Corn

Enjoying more July turns

At the bottom of the headwall, I had to look back and admire our work from three separate runs of excellent fun.  We pretty much tracked up the place, but it didn’t really matter as we were pretty much the only ones around to enjoy it.

Looking back at the headwall

We skied down to the top of the Goat Cirque and met back up with Joe and Dan.  After a bit of discussion, we found the appropriate place to drop in via a steep line of snow above a large crevasse like glide crack.  The snow was perfect, and we dropped in one by one down the steep pitch….

Joe skiing the Goat Cirque gut

Heading back to camp

After the exhilarating turns down the gut, we skied the rest of the bowl out and made the traverse back to our camp at Summerland.  Back at camp, everyone was tired, but satisfied with the day.  We celebrated with backcountry margaritas and a well deserved dinner.  That evening, while at camp, we met and chatted with a park ranger named Bud.  Turns out Bud was also a backcountry skier, and we exchanged stories about various ski trips for nearly an hour.  After Bud left, we hit the sack, in preparation for a final morning of skiing on day three prior to the hike and long drive home.

Day three dawned sunny and clear, and after a quick breakfast we left camp around 8:00 to ski the lower Fryingpan.  The snow was a bit firm, and crampons and ice axes were necessary, and for the first time on the trip I was glad to have brought them along.  As we climbed, the views to the north became better and better.  Eventually, Glacier Peak to the north poked out.  Another objective to put on the list for a future trip!

Looking out to Glacier Peak

From this side of the Fryingpan, the Emmons Glacier looms large.  Looking out onto the glacial mass, I could see the climbing route up the Emmons and made a mental note that sometime in the near future I needed to snowboard from the summit of Mt Rainier.  Around 11:00, we reached what would be our high point for the day.  Before strapping in, we snapped a few photos of the surrounding scenery and then dropped…

Our day 3 high point

Riding on the Fryingpan with the Emmons as a backdrop

The turns were sweet, smooth corn, and we worked our way down the slope to the rollover where it steepened.  Then, a long heelside traverse followed, to make an end run around a huge glide crack mid-slope that would have spelled trouble if one of us fell.  After that, the slope opened up again to excellent corn snow….

More July corn

We milked the turns all the way down to an elevation that was a few hundred feet below our campsite at Summerland.  Looking around, the beauty of Mt Rainier was obvious.  Big, large glaciers were punctuated by blue skies and wildflower lined canyons.  It’s easy to see why this place was designated national park status…

The Emmons

Looking down Fryingpan Creek from our low point

Tracks in the bowl

After the short hike back to camp, we set about breaking down our camp and getting gear packed for the hike out.  A round of backcountry margaritas were in order to celebrate a great trip, and then we hit the trail for the wildflower filled hike out.

The trail out

A few hours later we were drinking cold Rainier at the car, feeling blessed to have had such a great trip on a great mountain.  Sitting there enjoying a fresh garden salad and cold beer, I’d have to say that July in the Pacific Northwest has got to be the best!  Here’s a parting shot from the trip…

Matt & the Emmons

 

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